Seven images of a young Marilyn Monroe, then known as Norma Jeane - including one of Norma Jeane smiling in the California surf that, until recently, had remained unseen are being offered for the first time at auction by the family of acclaimed Hollywood photographer Richard C. Miller, as the Richard C. Miller Archive, as part of Heritage Auctions
July 29 Signature(r) Music & Entertainment Memorabilia Auction.
"There are many reasons that make this archive and Richard C. Miller so significant," said Kristen Painter, Manager of Music & Entertainment Memorabilia at Heritage. "Not only are they beautiful images of Marilyn on the brink of stardom, but they also reflect Miller's respect for her. Most all of Marilyn's photographers profited from her death early in the 1960s and 1970s. Everyone made a coffee table book of their images, except Miller."
Miller's daughters, Jan and Margaret, who are offering these very limited edition prints via the Heritage auction, have very clear memories of the images, and of their father's stories about taking them, from their childhoods.
"(Richard) spoke often of photographing Marilyn," said Jan. "He had done it all through her career, from those early days when she was just a new young model from the Blue Book Model Agency until her last movie. We reveled in his stories about working on Some Like It Hot, which turned out to be probably her best film and a classic comedy."
Miller, who died in 2010 at age of 98, initially pursued an acting career found himself more interested in taking photos of actors than in being one. In 1939 taught himself the difficult Carbro printing process and within two years had landed a rare photo cover on the Saturday Evening Post. He was soon working as an assistant to major photographers and shooting for major publications.
In March and April 1946 he photographed teenaged Norma Jeane Dougherty. Miller and Monroe worked together through several sessions in various locations, capturing a stunning dichotomy of images of a delicate all-American girl and budding young beauty on the verge of stardom. Their paths crossed again in 1958, when Miller, working as one of Hollywood's premier still photographers, was on the set of Some Like It Hot.
"(He) called her 'Nonnie,' her nickname at the time the first pictures were taken," added Miller's other daughter, Margaret, "so that when he saw her later on the Some Like It Hot set, he didn't know how to address her."
While the entire range of the photographs are truly dazzling, several stand out in particular due to their rarity. One of the most important pieces being offered is the Marilyn Monroe Red Suit in Surf Limited Edition Digital Print, #23 of an edition of 50 signed by Miller, of Monroe frolicking in the surf, one of many taken by Miller during a shoot in March 1946 that lasted until a large number of male onlookers began to congregate.
"He told us that the image was taken from quite a distance and was entirely spontaneous," said Jan. "He loved seeing it blown up in a large print, which couldn't be done from film because her image was too small and far away. It had to wait to be printed digitally to really capture it fully."
Another one of the photographs that rings particularly poignant is Marilyn Monroe Floating in Pool Limited Edition Digital, #23 of 50, signed by Miller, of an amazingly lovely Norma Jean floating on her back in a pool of water, smiling up at the camera. It is a simple a lovely image evoking the very best of Marilyn. It is also one of the rarest of the grouping.
In 1956, Miller worked on the set of Giant, where he and rising star James Dean bonded over their mutual love of Porsches - a fascination that would ultimately cost Dean his life before the end of that year. During this time, Miller took a number of candid black-and-white shots of Dean and co-star Elizabeth Taylor bonding and relaxing together on the set, capturing intimate images of a budding friendship cut short by Dean's untimely death.
"It's a distinct pleasure to offer these rare images, which mark such a key moment in the life of one of Hollywood's greatest stars," said Kristen Painter, Manager of Music & Entertainment Memorabilia at Heritage, "as well as the careers of one of America's greatest photographers."